SALEM, Ore. - One couple shares their journey to the other side of the world to expand their family from six to seven members.
Mandy and Adam Breitenstein have been married for 13 years and live in Salem, Oregon with their 4 children. Adoption had always been in their hearts and just recently their dream became a reality.
The Breitenstein family recently returned from Armenia, bringing with them the newest member of their family, just in time for Thanksgiving
"That is the beauty of adoption, it's the redemption story and her little life is so full of promise and that isn't diminished in an orphanage. But it's exemplified in a family and seeing her witness all these first, these firsts that we take for granted is magical because it's like the promise of her life. It's literally like, it's just blooming. We see her blooming in front of us," said Mandy Breitenstein.
They have a lot t be thankful for this holiday season with the newest member of their family, two-year-old Emberlou Avedik.
"That is her grandfather's name and actually in Armenian, it means good news. We love that we chose the name Ember because literally, it is a spark. It's what refuses to die out from a fire. And that is our prayer for her life, we believe that she is her namesake. She is a spark," Mandy explained.
The Breitenstein's traveled across the world to find their spark and were looking to adopt a child with Down Syndrome specifically.
"I didn't know anything about Down Syndrome. There's just a lot of uncertainties there and just things that I wasn't sure about or knew about," said Adam Breitenstein, Ember’s father.
"The moment that the nanny placed her in my arms. I remember she leaned her head back and she looked at me and she just stared into my eyes and I thought she was going to cry, but she didn't. She just looked at me and then she put her head on my shoulder and it was almost like she was saying to me, Oh, there you are. And it was a moment I will never forget because. I was holding my daughter and I knew it with every fiber of my being in that moment. And I have, I will just forever treasure," Mandy said.
Adam and Mandy felt it was important that since they had started this journey as a family, they needed to end it as a family.
They wanted their children to see where their sister was born.
"One of the most important things that we have always said through this is that as we adopt Ember, along with her, we are adopting the Armenian culture, traditions, and the Armenian people into the fabric of our family. And we take that responsibility very seriously. This is who she is. This is the rich cultural tradition that she was born into. And as her parents, it is our job. And our honor. To honor that in our family," said Mandy.
The journey was long, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a war. However, they said their faith guided them.
"This was a super long journey, but at the end of the journey is Ember and she was worth all of that tenfold. When we look at Ember, she is the gift. Like she, as the prize at the end of the story, and we are so honored and so humbled that we get to be her parents. I can't explain the joy in that," said Mandy.